It's been a while since I read a novel as intensely satisfying as The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson. It's got quite the twee hipster premise, which is why I avoided it as long as I did - Caleb and Camille Fang, performance artists for the art-isn't-art school, involve their children, Annie and Buster, in their works of spontaneous art. This is the sort of book I would have loved to read while at art school - the novel equivalent of Rushmore (mark my words, Jason Schwartzman will co-star in the film version as the adult Buster). But despite the gimmicky idea - gimmicky yet genius - the book gets real very quickly. Kevin Wilson integrates the Fang's crazy performances into the fabric of the novel seamlessly, alternating between chapters in the present day (as Annie and Buster live their lives as actress and freelance writer, and their parents become increasingly removed from the world) and chapters that describe the Fang's various pieces over their relationship. The plot is excellent, and the end surprised me in a completely different way than I expected, but the real wonder is where the author gets all his ideas. Call me unoriginal, but the amount of brainstorming that went into the Fang's artistic greatest hits alone felt like a legitimate body of work. Buster's writing (not to mention the movies that Annie stars in) could have made up their own book of short stories. The critical eye that the Fang parents turn on art and parenting seems somewhat exaggerated, but is achingly realistic and recognizable by anyone who has sat through a wine-induced "serious art" discussion amongst artists. And of course, the effect that the Fang's work and their intense desire to play God in every situation have on Children A & B is fascinating and sad.
Read it before the overly styled movie is made.